COMPARING India’s situation with regard to dams in the USA and justifying his argument that in certain conditions, economics favour removal of dams, the author drives home the point that “dams are not always economically beneficial”, especially since they become safety hazards with passage of time. He adds to support his contention that though dams did contribute a lot to USA’s economic development, but change in the economic circumstances have made dams economically unviable. Construction of large nuclear plants has led to low cost of electricity and rendered small hydropower plants like their Embrey Dam redundant. Another reason for this reassessment is the change of values when earlier the focus was on economical development but nowadays more value is attached to ecology and environment, due to the increase in flood losses, threat to endangered species and aesthetic characteristics.
The author fears that in future we too will be going through a similar progression from material to spiritual satisfaction. He suggests that we must consider sacrifice of long-term social and spiritual objectives while deciding to build a dam for provision of electricity in the short term.
He is also of the view that changes in the structure of our economy may make dams useless. For example, solar power may will be available at a fraction of the present cost in the not so distant a future with the development of solar power at Rs 4.00 per kWH as proposed by some players. This would render hydropower projects uneconomic or development of LED bulbs could reduce the peak demand. He does not favour committing of our rivers “for a long period for short-term gains” and for this a sensitivity analysis of future power scenario is recommended. He says the common belief in India is that hydropower is ‘renewable’ while thermal power is exhaustible, but experience of the United States indicates otherwise. “The life of dams is reckoned to be about 50-70 years after which they require extensive repairs. Dams develop cracks in course of time.”
This work is very subject-specific and also region-specific and will interest subjective readers and policy planners essentially.
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